I finally went to Septime, last night. This chic and well-publicized bistro is very difficult to get into, but my friend Émi scored a reservation by calling four or five weeks in advance. It is worth the wait.
A comparison with Chateaubriand, where I was lucky enough to dine last week, is inevitable. Both bistros have a 55-euro menu selected by the chef, with no substitutions permitted except in case of allergies and, at Septime, “strong dislikes” (you’re on your own for mere dislikes at Chateaubriand). The food at Chateaubriand is more elaborate and more edgy, but the food is excellent at Septime and its warm service and ambiance make the experience there every bit as enjoyable. Septime's tables and walls are of rough-hewn wood, and the energetic young servers and cooks are a pleasure to watch (I was lucky enough to be facing the open kitchen).
Here’s what we ate:
- White asparagus with a paper think slice of white turnip and small but significant touches of trout eggs, elder flowers and honey, with amazingly flavorful walnut oil.
- Warm poached eggs with pungently sweet caramelized spring onions and sprigs of raw wild asparagus.
- Rouget (red mullet) with fennel, black risotto and thick bouillabaisse purée. Lamb cooked in several ways with red beets, red turnips, red radishes and red beet purée: a symphony in red.
- Dessert consisting of elder flower ice cream and pink lady apple purée topped with loose crumble (sorry but the apple purée was just apple sauce).
In addition, we shared a cheese course: a perfect duo of artisan chèvre and Roquefort, accompanied by Septime’s excellent bread and what remained of our lovely little Saint Romain burgundy. Even with the cheese, we did not feel overly full, due to the lightness of the food and the appropriately small size of the dishes.
Septime is definitely a place to get to if you have a chance. Plan ahead - far ahead - and enjoy.
Septime, 80 rue de Charonne, 75011 Paris (Métro Charonne).